This month, I thought I'd leave an area for some light-hearted material by taking a look at the LAIKA library. In case some of you are wondering about the missing LAIKA titles, here's my review for 'Coraline', and as far as 'The Corpse Bride' goes, I figured it would be best saved for a Tim Burton Month, whenever I decide that will be. We kick things off this month with my favorite film from the studio, 'ParaNorman' - a film I have a strangely deep connection with, but I'll get into why in a bit.
Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a strange child. People on the streets see him talking to imaginary people, and his family and peers grow weary of his stories that consist of his strange ability to communicate with the dead. That's not so much in a Ouija, seance form as a 'Sixth Sense', straight up talk to them form. His father (Jeff Garlin) and sister, Courtney (Anna Kendrick) give him a particularly hard time with it, as he insists that he has convos with his grandmother, right there in the living room, as she watches B movies with him. However, soon, he makes a friend who accepts him for who he is, named Neil (Tucker Albrizz).
Just when things are starting to look up for Norman, his deranged hobo-ish and dying uncle, Mr. Prenderghast, warns him about protecting his town from a witch's curse. Now that his time is almost up, he has to pass the torch to Norman, who he knows can communicate with spirits, and can therefore keep the curse at bay by reading a bedtime story at the witch's grave site. Upon reading from the book he gets from Prenderghast, however, he unleashes a horde of zombies who begin advancing on his hometown of Blithe Hollow. Now it's up to Norman, Neil, and Courtney, along with the aid of school bully, Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Neil's big brother, Mitch (Casey Affleck) to put a stop to the zombie invasion, and put the witch to rest again.
Going back to what I mentioned before about having a deep connection with it, I've always felt a few things about it. I feel like the child version of me can relate to Norman a lot in this, being the misunderstood outcast who's seldom taken seriously. But more than that, without going into it too much, my relationship with my Dad felt very similar to Norman's with his, and I had just lost my father a month before this was released. Something about it really spoke to me, and even taught me a thing or two, and one could say it even offered a bit of closure. Odd coming from a film like this, but that's how it all felt when I first saw it.
Putting me and my stuff aside, however, there's plenty for anyone to like here. Neil is an extremely likable character who you really urge Norman towards, because he doesn't see him as a loser or a freak, and he's ever in his corner through the whole movie. His big brother is hilarious, being a sort of meat-headed jock type, with a lot of dumb moments. But what really makes his character is a twist about him in the end you don't really see coming. Everyone has a moment or two here though, it's a lot of fun watching such an odd team up once the film gets going.
Perhaps the film's best overall message is to not judge a book by its cover, to keep it plain and simple. It's a theme that keeps popping up here and there, not limited to Norman's odd ability, and having people accept him. I like to tell people who are new to it, that it's essentially 'The Sixth Sense' for a younger audience, and instead of relying on scares, it relies on well-timed comedy. I highly recommend this title as a family watch for the Halloween season, being that it made my 20 Family Friendly Halloween Classics list in 2017. There's a lot here for just about anyone watching, complete with comedy, creepy atmosphere, funny characters voiced by talented actors, and it might even make one take a good hard look at oneself. Check it out. It's my highest recommendation on the LAIKA list - yes, even over 'Coraline'.